Local entrepreneurs compete in IDEA Week

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- An annual event at the University of Notre Dame hopes to affect change in the community.

Starting Wednesday, April 20 through Saturday, community members from all over South Bend and Elkhart are invited to this creative innovation festival, where you can play, meet and compete.

Whether you’re coming as someone who wants to learn more about what new innovative ideas are in store for the city, or you’re a student or entrepreneur who’s involved with educating others on what you have to offer, IDEA week is filled with business, technology and entertainment events for all.

One event in particular you can attend during IDEA Week, is the 2022 McCloskey start-up showcase and finals. It’s a competition going on its 22nd year Notre Dame students, faculty and staff members. The goal is to get entrepreneurial ventures off the ground with more than a $300,000 grand prize to help make that happen.

Notre Dame graduates Daniel Fritz and Riley Ellingsen are partners and are competing for the prize for their company “heARsight,” which is a product designed for people who are hard of hearing.

“We are currently working on a company called “heARsight” and it’s going to be creating a product that’s going to be helping you and I both read the room, that’s what we like to say, but it’s a pair of heads-up display glasses that display real time subtitles during your in-person conversations,” Notre Dame Graduate and heARsight Founder Daniel Fritz said.

Before the two came to Notre Dame, they were able to pair up through a university program they were both in, and became roommates. It wasn’t until Danny had his own personal experience while watching a movie with his girlfriend who’s hard of hearing, that their innovative idea came to light. After questioning how subtitles on the screen could be translated into real time and follow you wherever you go, he decided to have a conversation with Riley.

From there, the two designed display glasses, to show subtitles during in person conversations.

“I’ve been lucky to have Riley with me to work on the idea since September now, so we are just kind of navigating the startup path and trying to make it real,” Fritz said.

The first stages for Danny and Riley started with problem-solution validation work, confirming that there is purpose for a new product and then determining if their idea would solve the problem many individuals who are deaf or are hard of hearing have. From there, they had to brainstorm how to make their idea a reality. They commissioned a rendering of what they want their product to look like.

Now, the next steps is to continue to build the company up and be able to provide the product to those who need it the most.

Danny and riley hope to win the McCloskey competition during idea week and the grand prize, which will allow them to get their product up and officially running.

“In order to get the rest of the capital needed to accelerate that prototype development, we’ve been working on it, but to get it a little bit higher fidelity we are going to need some more resources and capital resources,” Notre Dame Graduate and heARsight Founder Riley Ellingsen said.

“I think a big take away from this whole process is just the challenges of staring a company. I don’t think I would’ve ever imagined the roadblock we would find ourselves in but all of them we’ve been able to navigate just fine with the resources and education we’ve gotten here… people are kind of the most important part of any start up. It’s finding the right people and finding people to talk to next who are going to help you make that next step along your journey,” Fritz said.

The McCloskey competition begins on Thursday. If Riley and Danny are chosen as finalists, they’ll be notified then and will find out the winner on Friday during a live-stream.

For a full list of IDEA Week events, click here.

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